Houston Ozone Season Demonstrates Improvements Still Needed

SignboardAirQualityHouston_wikipediaOzone season in Houston runs from March 1 to November 30 each year, meaning we’re nearing the tail end of the season – a good time to take a look at how the region has fared.

To date this year, the Houston region has had 25 days where the ozone concentration in at least one monitor (includes regulatory and non-regulatory monitors) has exceeded the current health-based standard of 75 parts per billion (ppb). This includes a string of five consecutive unhealthy air days in late August. The 75 ppb level is the highest measurement at which EPA currently considers the air to be safe and healthy for all individuals. Assuming no additional exceedances, Houston’s 3-year design value, which is an average of air quality measurements and how the region is measured against the standard, is on track to be 80 ppb for the period of 2013-2015.

Why does this matter? Exposure to ozone is associated with health concerns and most commonly affects the lungs and the respiratory system. Airways can become inflamed and can result in coughing, tightness in the chest, and shortness of breath, along with many other symptoms. You can reduce your exposure to dangerous concentrations of ozone by limiting your time outdoors during high ozone days and understanding how ozone can affect your health.

With ozone concentrations in Texas repeatedly exceeding the standard, it is important to remember that ozone affects everyone, including those most vulnerable, such as children and seniors. Current science shows that we need to do more to protect public health and ensure clean air for everybody.

While some have been fighting clean air protections, a recent study from the Ottawa-Carleton Institute for Environmental Engineering in Ontario, Canada has provided evidence that the marginal benefits of controlling ozone pollution will increase over time. In other words, the positive health impacts reducing ozone precursors grow as more pollution is reduced and ozone levels drop in the future.

The findings of this study, which was published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Science and Technology, come at a pivotal point, with a change in the health-based standard expected by October 1. EPA has estimated that strengthening the ozone standard from 75 ppb to between 60-70 ppb could prevent up to 4,300 premature deaths each year and 960,000 asthma attacks among children. See this link for more information about why a more protective standard is needed to protect your health.

To learn more about ozone exceedances in your region, visit the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality website. And you can add your voice to the call for a more protective ozone standard that will help ensure healthier air in Houston and communities across the country.

Photo source: Wikipedia/Whisper to Me

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